top of page

Polish Civil War: Battle of Mątwy (13 July 1666)

On Friday 17 November, I put on a 28mm Eastern Renaissance game, which pitted rebellious Polish nobles (the republican Confederates - 16,000 men) led by Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski, against the Polish Crown (the Regalist party - 21,000 men) - headed by King Jan II Kazimierz Vasa, in the Battle of Mątwy (by the River Noteć, western Poland).

Lubomirski: Tribune of the People?

In the wake of the cataclysmic Swedish Deluge (1655-1660) which saw all comers invade and devastate the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the rebels, sensing the whiff of absolutism, were opposed to the king reforming the elective political system (which he had sworn to uphold before his coronation).

Jan II Kazimierz - King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania (r. 1648-1668)

The king, however, wanted to retain the elective monarchy, but ensure that a successor was chosen during the incumbent king's lifetime (electio vivente rege) - a halfway house between election and a hereditary monarchy. Lubomirski vehemently opposed the plans, negotiated with foreign powers, and was convicted by parliament and banished for treason, before returning in 1665 with a rebel army of Polish noblemen.

Sejm: Polish-Lithuanian parliament (1622)

The Game

Rob, Doug and Mal were on the regalist side (with advantage in heavy cavalry, infantry and artillery), while Theo, Patrick, our guest Mark and Jonathan were on the republican side (with more light cavalry and a better position).

The regalists had to cross the river on a narrow frontage and destroy the rebels. The latter had to defeat the regalists. We used blinds to mask the number and location of the rebel units.

Having secured their flanks with infantry and artillery, the regalists slowly crossed the river, receiving fire from the advancing light and medium cavalry of the republicans.

Theo's dragoons, infantry and artillery held the high ground on the right, facing Rob, and were led by Lubomirski himself.

Patrick faced Doug, while Mal's artillery fired on the republicans' far left.

The lighter republican cavalry was eventually pushed back by the king's hussars in the centre.

Rob's infantry and cavalry advanced up the hill, pushing Theo's pivoting infantry and artillery out of the way.

Meanwhile, Mal flanked the republican left, attacking the Confederation cavalry reserve with his hussars and pancerni.

The game ended with a large scrummage of cavalry, which the regalists eventually won, pushing the rebels ever closer to the back of the table.

The regalists had lost two units. The republicans, whilst not broken, had lost four plus one artillery unit. I believe that everyone liked the figures and enjoyed the game, using my Sobieski! rules.

Jan Sobieski, elected King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1674

The historical battle unfolded as follows. Hetman Sobieski (the future king who relieved Vienna in 1683) persuaded King Jan to break a ceasefire and attack the confederates. The king's army duly moved off and rashly crossed the river without reconnaissance and in muddled order, while leaving much of the infantry behind. Lubomirski's army was hidden behind the hill, and charged into the regalist army as it crossed the river.

Battle of Mątwy: Picture source:

The republicans lost 200 men, but the regalists lost over 3,000 (including 2,000 men massacred by the republicans). The result was a blemish on Sobieski's military record, later atoned for. However, King Jan Kazimierz later pardoned Lubomirski after receiving a formal apology. Lubomirski forfeited his offices and was banished to Silesia, where he died in 1667. A victory for the Crown then - yet a symbolic defeat, given the loss of respect. The king's reform plans were never enacted.



bottom of page